Iraq prime minister wins vote in Mosul province

5 things you need to know now

5 things you need to know now

Nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Sairoon Coalition achieved an upset victory, in what has been described as a repudiation of both U.S. and Iranian influence in Iraq.

The populist Shiite preacher, a firebrand who once battled United States troops and now opposes Tehran, is looking to cobble together a broad technocrat coalition tasked with rooting out Iraq's endemic corruption.

The movement has pitched itself as a challenge to Iraq's entrenched elite and ridden popular protests over graft to drum up support.

But even then, his bloc might not necessarily form the next government.

Sadr - who has ruled himself out of becoming PM - should be the key powerbroker and is already eyeing a coalition of around a dozen groups to reach a majority.

Saturday's election is the first since the defeat of ISIL previous year.

"We are joyous", said Jaafar Abdeljaleed, 28, who added that his father was killed fighting USA -led forces in 2003. Closely associated with the Islamic revolutionary guard Corps is considered a puppet politician of Iran.

In a surprising pivot a year ago, he visited regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia to the south, with Riyadh looking to increase its involvement in Iraq as it vies with Tehran.

Sadr faces a hard act to herd together enough groups from across Iraq's fragmented political spectrum to form a government.

Iraq's national elections commission says Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has taken the largest share of votes in the province that includes the formerly Islamic State-held city of Mosul.

Abadi and Maliki are bitter rivals despite coming from the establishment Dawa party that has dominated politics in post-Saddam Iraq.

Some 5,000 American troops are in Iraq supporting local forces in the battle against IS, a Sunni Muslim jihadist group.

Mr Sadr cannot be appointed prime minister as he did not stand in the election but his apparent victory could make him the kingmaker in the coalition negotiations.

Washington's preferred candidate, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has been knocked into third place. The government should be formed within 90 days of the official results.

An electoral alliance of Hashd-linked candidates, headed by militia commander Hadi al-Amiri, is now in second place in the election returns. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow his bloc to govern.

Al-Sadr led the Mahdi army in the early years of the war on terror, using IEDs and machine guns to kill Western forces, O'Neill said.

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